What We Did This Weekend

Late Friday night, I realized my husband and I were in a state of denial.  As usual, I panicked.

“Look at everything we have to do,”  I said.  “If we’re going to rent out our house and go to New York in September, we’ve got to get started.”

He pretended to be asleep, ignoring me.  That was fine.  I went ahead with the conversation, speaking in my fake husband voice.  This is what you can do when you’ve been married a long time — anticipate, with great precision, what the other person is going to say.

“Everything looks fine!” the fake husband said.  “What are you so worried about?  Lie down and take deep breaths.”

“Are you crazy?” I replied.  “We’ve got to clean out every room.  This is going to be as much trouble as moving!”

“Stop worrying.  We’ll get it done,” the fake husband said.  “You’re getting too excited.”


“I’m so glad I don’t have to talk,” my real husband said.  “I’m going back to sleep.  Can you lower your voice a little — and mine, too?”

Well, you can see what I have to put up with on the domestic front.  It’s amazing I have a shred of self-esteem left.  I stopped carrying on the conversation (it’s exhausting to have to speak for two people when you’re basically an introvert) and went to sleep.  The next morning, I wake up with a sense of renewed purpose.

We clean out our bedroom bureaus and our closets.  We cart off piles of clothes and other assorted debris.  I love this kind of work; it makes me feel cleansed and lighter, almost noble.  Look at me!  I’m organized!  My husband hates it.  He worries he’s throwing out something that will have great meaning in the future.  Like the cowboy shirt that’s older than Roy Rogers and the two Hawaiian shirts.  Who knows when they might come in handy?  I’m going to regret this, I know!

We take photos of the most important rooms in the house for our rental ad.  Thanks to my obsessive Craigslist habit, I now know all the little tricks.  Make the bed.  Clear out the clutter.  Do not leave crumbs on the kitchen counter.  Make sure the sunlight is streaming in.  If you’re going to show the bathroom, will you put the toilet seat down, for God’s sake?  Things like that.  Some people might think I’ve been wasting untold amounts of time on Craigslist.  But no.  I’ve been learning.

We’re maybe 5 percent of the way through our overhaul, but already the inevitable thought occurs:  Why do we make our house look better than it’s ever looked before when we’re getting ready to vacate it?  Why don’t we do this kind of work for ourselves?

See the proof: http://www.utpsyc.org/House/.  Wow.  I’d rent that house myself.

(Copyright 2009 by Ruth Pennebaker)

6 comments… add one
  • I am sure that it is possible, indeed common, for a writer to claim to be “basically an introvert”.  And I would be willing to believe it too.

    But I am not sure about a blogger, which seems to me a fairly extroverted activity.

    My excuse for doing it so badly (in the blogging world equals — among other faults, of course — doing it so intermittently)  because I am an introvert.  Whenever anything actually important happens to me I don’t want to talk about it.

    But you share your survival of cancer, your friendships, your life with writing, work, husband, your toilet seat. 

    Meanwhile, sure, I’d rent your house, if I weren’t so desperate to find a tenant for mine.

  • I got distracted with looking at your house in the middle of that comment — I meant to say, what I hope is obvious, that I think you do all that sharing WELL.

    I am just wondering how you manage to suppress your inner introvert when you do it.  Post, please.

  • ruthpennebaker Link

    To me, blogging is simply writing in another format.  It’s no different from writing a newspaper column, which I did for years — except that there’s no editor around to rein me in (not always an advantage, but I’ve come to like it).  I do write about my personal life, but am always careful about what I write; I don’t want to be shunned by my family and friends for embarrassing or exploiting them.

    To me, being an introvert requires solitary time on a regular basis.  That’s almost a physical need for me.  Also, I’m not that big a talker.  In fact, I’m pretty sure I write faster and more than I talk.

  • I am blown away with the wonders of your house.  Are you going to leave all your nice things for some unknown stranger to use (possibly to abuse)?  And it must be so much work to store up all your clothes and other personal stuff.  So daunting.  But what fun it was to see it all.  I think other people who blog should display the place they live in because so much can be deduced by looking at the way people live and what kinds of things they cherish.

    I’m interested in the subject, raised by the Duchess, of what one reveals about one’s self in blogging.  I have been thinking about just that, and I find that through blogging I have discovered a different kind of intimacy from any I have known before.  In a blog feelings are shared that most people probably don’t talk about so openly any place else.  And these feelings are shared with others that we never see in the flesh.  They are intimate but disembodied friends.  Like you, I try to be careful with what I reveal about myself and what I say about others.  I have to remember that now and then my children may read what I write.

  • ruthpennebaker Link

    AAACK!  Now I’m freaked out by our potential renters.  Truth is, our house is nice, but there’s nothing of incredible value here.  Most of our furnishings have been abused for years, so we now call them antiques; they have more sentimental than market value.

    I agree with you about the Internet, though, Anne.  It’s a remarkable place for friendship and communication — as if a new world has opened up.

  • Rent <— a four-letter word.  Maybe things are different in the civilized big city, but every renter I ever had trashed the place.  Doesn’t matter what you put in the lease – they will think of some new, unique way to trash your place.  (Sorry to be such a naysayer, but you’re bringing back some of my more unpleasant examples.) 

    Here are two minor examples (the larger examples would take a book to write):

    1.  I awaken one morning to the gleeful screams of children next door (where the rental house was).  To my horror, numerous children, most of whom I’ve never seen before and who are not the renter’s children, are jumping ever higher in the air on a … trampoline.  I was already aware of the legal concept of an “attractive nuisance” – something which is so compelling to children that they will go to any lengths to use it, and that homeowners are responsible for such “attractive nuisances.” (Like swimming pools)

    So, I call my friendly insurance agent and ask:  “Craig, what would you say IF I said there was a trampoline in the backyard of the unfenced rental property,  upon which numerous unknown children are jumping up and down?  Would say that was an attractive nuisance and that you hoped I have deep pockets?”  Craig laughed and said yes, he hoped that IF there was such a device in the rental property backyard, that he hoped I had deep pockets, especially as I would be uninsured.

    Now, I really liked this renter.  (It’s hard to like renters.)  I invited her over for a chat on my front porch.  I had printed out a few horror stories and stats from the Internet, about how emergency room physicians hate trampolines and won’t let their own children use them due to the risk of back/neck injuries/paralysis.  I tried … hard … to be thoughtful. 

    It fell on deaf ears.  The renter flatly told me that she had bought the trampoline for her children’s enjoyment and they would be using it.  I asked what she thought about the whole neighborhood using it.  She just shrugged her shoulders.  (Why would she care, I’d be the one on the hook!)  I explained to her that – for insurance reasons alone – I couldn’t allow the trampoline to remain.  She said she’d move.  I said that’s fine:  You’ll have to choose between a large house with reasonable rent and the elementary school which your children attend in site or…the trampoline.  She chose the trampoline.  And told everyone how hard I was to get along with and how cruel I was to children.

    2 – Despite having a large and lovely backyard with mature shade trees, Renter #2 never grilled out in the backyard.  Barbecues began in earnest in the dead of winter.  On the front porch.  On the recently repainted front porch.  Soon, the porch ceiling was blackened from smoke.  These people were crazy in other ways and their lease was up soon, so I suffered in silence.  Too bad I didn’t approach them about the porch ceiling – maybe I would have seen the parrot flying throughout the house leaving bird dropping everywhere!

    No.  You do not want renters.  No matter what you say in the lease, they will find a clever new way to get around the lease.  Truuuuuuuust me!

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